That the head of the Gulf of California has a big tide is well known. Choked in a narrowing cone, the waters rise higher and higher as they come to the apex, reaching twenty-five feet or over in a high tide. This causes a tidal bore to roll up the Colorado, and from all reports it was something to be avoided. The earliest Spanish explorers told some wonderful tales of being caught in this bore and of nearly losing their little sailing vessels.

This was my first experience with river tides. It was somewhat of a disappointment to me that I could not arrange to be here at a high tide, for we had come at the first quarter of the moon. Out on the open sea one can usually make some headway by rowing against the ebb or flow of the tide: here on the Colorado, where it flowed upstream at a rate of from five to eight miles an hour, it was different. When we reached the head of the tide, it was going out. Unfortunately for us the day was gone when the current began to run strong. It hardly seemed advisable to travel with it after dark. We might pass the ranch, or be carried against a rock-bound coast, or find difficulty in landing and be overwhelmed by the tidal bore. So when darkness fell we camped pulling our boat out in a little slough to prevent it from being carried away. Evidently we were too near the headwaters for a tidal bore, for at eleven P.M. the waters turned and came back as quietly as they ran out.

We launched our boat before the break of day, and for four hours we travelled on a good current. The channel now had widened to a half-mile, with straight earthy banks, about fifteen feet high. Still there was no sign of a ranch, and it began to look to us as if there was little likelihood of finding any.

The land was nearly level and except for a few raised hummocks on which grew some scattered trees, it was quite bare. This was not only because it did not get the life-giving water from the north, but because at times it was submerged under the saline waters from the south. Near the shores of the river, and extending back for fifty feet, was a matted, rank growth of grass; beyond that the earth was bare, baked and cracked by the burning sun. This grass, we found, was a favorite resort of rattlesnakes. We killed two of them, a large one and a vicious little flat-headed sidewinder.

All this land was the south rim of the silt dam, which extended from the line of cliffs or mesa on the east to the mountains on the west. The other rim, a hundred feet higher, lay at least fifty miles to the north. Here was the resting-place of a small portion of the sediment carved away by the Colorado's floods. How deep it is piled and how far it extends out under the waters of the Gulf would be hard to say.

We felt sure that we would get to the Gulf with this tide, but when the time came for it to turn we were still many miles away. There was nothing to do but to camp out on this sun-baked plain. We stopped a little after 9.30 A.M. Now that we were nearing the Gulf we were sure there would be a tidal bore. As we breakfasted a slight rushing sound was heard, and what appeared to be a ripple of broken water or small breaker came up the stream and passed on. This was a disappointment. With high water on the river and with a low tide this was all the tidal bore we would see.

In four hours the water rose fourteen feet, then for two hours the rise was slower. Within three feet of the level it came. The opposite side, rounded at the edges, looked like a thread on top of the water, tapered to a single silken strand and looking toward the Gulf, merged into the water. To all appearances it was a placid lake spread from mountain to mesa.

Our smaller canteen was still filled with the fresh water secured the evening before. The other had been emptied and was filled again before the return of the tide, but considerable taste of the salt remained. What we did now must be done with caution. So far we had not seen the ranch. We were in doubt whether it was somewhere out on the coast or back on one of the sloughs passed the evening before. We had heard of large sail-boats being hauled from Yuma and launched by the ranch. This would seem to indicate that it was somewhere on the Gulf. We had provisions sufficient for one day, one canteen of fresh water, and another so mixed with the salt water that we would not use it except as a last resort.

A little after 3.30 P.M. the tide changed; we launched our boat and went out with the flood. As we neared the mouth of the stream we found that the inrush and outrush of water had torn the banks. Here the river spread in a circular pool several miles across. It seemed almost as if the waters ran clear to the line of yellow cliffs and to the hazy mountain range. Then the shores closed in again just before the current divided quite evenly on either side of a section of the barren plain named Montague Island. We took the channel to the east.

Our last hope of finding the ranch was in a dried-out river channel, overgrown with trees. But although we looked carefully as we passed, there was no sign of a trail or of human life. Some egrets preened their silken feathers on the bank; sand-hill cranes and two coyotes, fat as hogs and dragging tails weighted with mud, feasted on the lively hermit-crabs, which they extracted from their holes - and that was all.

The sun, just above the lilac-tinted mountains, hung like a great suspended ball of fire. The cloudless sky glared like a furnace. Deep purple shadows crept into the canyons slashing the mountain range. The yellow dust-waves and the mirages disappeared with the going down of the sun. Still we were carried on and on. We would go down with the tide. Now the end of the island lay opposite the line of cliffs; soon we would be in the Gulf.

So ended the Colorado. Two thousand miles above, it was a beautiful river, born of a hundred snow-capped peaks and a thousand crystal streams; gathering strength, it became the masterful river which had carved the hearts of mountains and slashed the rocky plateaus, draining a kingdom and giving but little in return. Now it was going under, but it was fighting to the end. Waves of yellow struggled up through waves of green and were beaten down again. The dorsal fins of a half-dozen sharks cut circles near our craft. With the last afterglow we were past the end of the island and were nearing the brooding cliffs. Still the current ran strong. The last vestige of day was swallowed in the gloom, just as the Colorado was buried 'neath the blue. A hard wind was blowing, toward the shore; the sea was choppy. A point of rocks where the cliffs met the sea was our goal. Would we never reach it? Even in the night, which was now upon us, the distance was deceptive. At last we neared the pile of rocks. The sound of waters pounding on the shore was heard, and we hurriedly landed, a half-mile above it, just as the tide turned.

The beach was a half-mile wide, covered with mud and sloughs. There was no high shore. But an examination showed that the tide ran back to the cliffs. One of us had to stay with the boat. Telling Phillipps to get what sleep he could, I sat in the boat, and allowed the small breakers which fox-chased each other to beat it in as the tide rose.

An arctic explorer has said that having an adventure means that something unexpected or unforeseen has happened; that some one has been incompetent. I had the satisfaction of knowing that the fault of this adventure, if such it could be called, was mine. Here we were, at our goal in Mexico, supposed to be a hostile land, with scant provisions for one day. It was a hundred miles along the line of cliffs, back to Yuma. So far, we had failed to find the ranch. It was not likely that it was around the point of rocks. We knew now that the Colorado channel was fifteen miles from the mouth of the river, and was not a slough as we had supposed. Doubtless the ranch was up there. Our best plan was to return to the head of the tide, going up the Colorado, then if we did not find the ranch we would abandon the boat, snare some birds, keep out of the scorching heat, and travel in the morning and evening. Two active men should be able to do that without difficulty.

So the hours passed, with the breakers driving the boat toward the line of cliffs. When it had reached its highest point, I pulled into a slough and tied up, then woke Al as we had agreed. While I slept, he climbed the cliffs to have a last look. An hour after daybreak he returned. Nothing but rock and desert could be seen. We dragged the boat down in the slime of the slough until we caught the falling tide. Then Al rigged up his sail. With the rising sun a light breeze blew in from the Gulf. Here was our opportunity. Slowly we went up against the falling tide. Then as the breeze failed, the tide returned. Fifty feet away a six foot black sea bass floated; his rounded back lifted above the water. With the approach of the boat he was gone. The sharks were seen again.

Two hours later we had entered the mouth of the river carried by the rising tide. Several miles were left behind. Another breeze came up as the tide failed, and the sail was rigged up again. Things were coming our way at last. Al knew how to handle a boat. Running her in close to the top of the straight falling banks I could leap to the land, take a picture, then run and overtake the boat, and leap on again.

Then the wind shifted, the tide turned, and we tied up, directly opposite the point where we had camped the afternoon before. It was the hottest day we had seen Whirlwinds, gathering the dust in slender funnels, scurried across the plains. Mirages of trees bordering shimmering lakes and spreading water such as we had come through below Yuma were to be seen, even out towards the sea. Then over toward the cliffs where the old Colorado once ran we saw a column of distant smoke. Perhaps it was a hunter; it could hardly be the ranch. As we could do nothing with the boat, we concluded to walk over that way. It was many miles distant. Taking everything we had, including our last lunch, we started our walk, leaving a cloth on a pole to mark the point where our boat was anchored. But after going four miles it still seemed no nearer than before, so we returned. It was evening. The water was drinkable again; that was something to be thankful for. By ten o'clock that night the tide would come up again. After dark we found that our boat was being beached. So we ran it down and began pulling it along over a shoal reaching far out from the shore. As we tugged I was sure I heard a call somewhere up the river. What kind of a land was this! Could it be that my senses were all deceiving me as my eyes were fooled by the mirage? I had heard it, Al had not, and laughed when I said that I had. We listened and heard it again, plainly this time, "Can't you men find a landing? We have a good one up here," it said.

We asked them to row down, advising them to keep clear of the shoal. We waded out, guided by their voices, in the pitch darkness and neared the boat.

One shadowy form sat in either end of a flat-bottomed boat. There was a mast, and the boat was fitted for two oarsmen as well. Evidently the load was heavy, for it was well down in the water. The sail cloth was spread over all the boat, excepting one end where there was a small sheet-iron stove, with a pan of glowing wood coal underneath. The aroma of coffee came from a pot on the stove. As I steadied myself at the bow I touched a crumpled flag, - Mexican, I thought, - but I could not see. Both figures sat facing us, with rifles in their hands, alert and ready for a surprise. Smugglers! I thought; guns, I imagined. They could not see our faces in the dark, neither could we distinguish theirs. Judging by their voices they were young men. I thought from the first that they were Mexicans, but they talked without accent. They could see that we carried no arms, but their vigilance was not relaxed. They asked what our trouble was and we told them of the beached boat, what we had been doing, and why we were there. They said they were out for a little sight-seeing trip down in the Gulf. They might go to Tiburone Island. One of them wondered if it was true that the natives were cannibals. He said he would not care about being shot, but he would hate to be put in their stew-pot. We asked them how much water they carried. A fifteen-gallon keg was all They hoped to get more along the coast. It is quite well known there is none. They professed to be uninformed about the country, did not know there was a ranch or a tidal bore, and thanked us for our information about the tides, and the advice to fill their keg when the water was lowest, which would be in half an hour. They could not sell any provisions, but gave us a quart of flour.

As we talked an undermined bank toppled over, sounding like shots from a gun. One cocked his rifle on the impulse, then laughed when he realized what it was. Just before we parted one of them remarked, "You came through the Bee River four days ago, near a telephone, didn't you?" "Yes, but we didn't see any one," I replied.

"No? But we saw you!" And we felt the smiles we could not see.

They said the large ranch had some Chinamen clearing the highest ground, and building levees around it to keep the water out. The telephone and a motor boat connected the different ranches. Their advice to us was to keep to the river, not to look for the ranch, but to get on the telephone and raise a racket until some one showed up.

Then we parted to go to our respective landings, with mutual wishes for a successful journey. The boat was pulled down. The tide was on the point of turning, but it would be an hour before there would be any strength to it. I went to shore and built a fire of some driftwood, for the long stand in the water had chilled me. Al stayed with the boat. Earlier in the day, I cautiously shook the sticks loose from the matted grass, fearing the rattlers which were everywhere. In this case nothing buzzed. But I had no sooner got my fire well started when a rattler began to sing, roused by the light and the heat, about twenty feet away. My fire was built beside one of the many sloughs which cut back through the grass and ended in the barren soil. These sloughs were filled with water when the tide was in and made ideal landing places, especially if one had to avoid a big tidal bore. Getting on the opposite side of the fire, I tossed a stick occasionally to keep him roused. Soon another joined, and between them they made the air hum. By this time I was thoroughly warmed and felt that the boat would be the best place for me. Carefully extinguishing my fire, I went down to the river just as the tide returned. Without any sign or call from the shore we were carried up with the tide. We were both weary but I dared not sleep, so I merely kept the boat away from the shores and drifted, while Phillipps slept. I had picked out a guiding star which I little needed while the current was running strong, but which would give us our course when the tide changed, for we could be carried out just as easily.

But an hour after we left our camp another light appeared, growing larger and larger. It was one of two things. Either my fire was not extinguished, or a match thrown down by one of the others had fired the deep dry grass. I consoled myself that it could not spread, for the sloughs and the barren soil would cut it off. I had a grim satisfaction when I thought of the snakes and how they would run for the desert land. This was a real guiding star, growing larger and larger as we were carried up the stream. I slept on shore when the tide would take us no farther. Phillipps got breakfast. We were now about three miles from the slough. After breakfast we alternately towed the boat, for there was no wind to carry us up this morning, and two hours later arrived at the diverging streams. Near by we saw some mules showing evidence of having been worked. It was clear now that the ranch was near. There was still a chance that we would take the wrong stream. Over on the opposite side was a tall cottonwood tree. This I climbed, and had the satisfaction of seeing some kind of a shed half a mile up the east stream. The land between proved to be a large island. As we neared the building two swarthy men emerged and came down to the shore. "Buenos dias," Al called as we pulled in to the landing.

"Buenos dias, Senor," they answered with a smile.

They were employees of the Rancho La Bolso, which was a half-mile up the stream.

Did we make the big fire which had burned until morning?

Our answer seemed to relieve their minds.

What would we do with our boat? It was theirs to do with as they pleased. Leading two horses from out of the building, they mounted and told us to climb on behind, and away we rode across some water-filled sloughs. Hidden in the trees we came to the buildings - three or four flat-topped adobe houses. Some little brown children scattered to announce our coming.

As we dismounted two white men approached. "Why, hello, Phillipps!" the ranch boss said when he saw my companion. "This is a long walk from Yuma. You fellows are just in time to grub!"


[Footnote 1: The various expeditions which are credited with continuous or complete journeys through all the canyons and the dates of leaving Green River, Wyoming, are as follows:

     Major Powell, 1st journey. May 24, 1869.

     Major Powell, 2nd journey. May 22, 1871. Discontinued at Kanab 
       Canyon in the Grand Canyon.

     Galloway. Sept. 20, 1895 and 1896.

     Flavell. Aug. 27, 1896.

     Stone. Sept. 12, 1909.

     Kolb. Sept. 8, 1911.

For a more complete record of the earlier parties see appendix.]

[Footnote 2: The initials E.C. apply to my brother, Emery C. Kolb; E.L. to myself. These initials are frequently used in this text. For several years the nick-name "Ed" has been applied to me, and in my brothers' narratives I usually figure as Ed.]

[Footnote 3: It is not unusual for certain individual animals to be outlawed or to have a price set on their heads by the stockmen's associations, in addition to the regular bounty paid by the counties. At the time this is written there is a standing reward of $200 for a certain "lobo," or timber wolf which roams over the Kaibab Forest directly opposite our home in the Grand Canyon. In addition to this there is a bounty of $10 offered by the county. This wolf has taken to killing colts and occasional full-grown horses, in addition to his regular diet of yearling calves.]

[Footnote 4: Brown-Stanton. May 25, 1889.

Russell-Monnette. Sept. 20, 1907.

For a more complete record of these expeditions, as well as others who attempted the passage of the canyons below this point, see appendix.]

[Footnote 5: Left by the Stone expedition.]

[Footnote 6: While Major Powell was making his second voyage of exploration, another party was toiling up these canyons towing their boats from the precipitous shores. This party was under the leadership of Lieutenant Wheeler of the U.S. Army. The party was large, composed of twenty men, including a number of Mojave Indians, in the river expedition, while others were sent overland with supplies to the mouth of Diamond Creek. By almost superhuman effort they succeeded in getting their boats up the canyon as far as Diamond Creek. While there is no doubt that they reached this point, there were times when we could hardly believe it was possible when we saw the walls they would have to climb in this granite gorge. In some places there seemed to be no place less than five hundred feet above the river where they could secure a foothold. Their method was to carry a rope over these places, then pull the boats up through the rapids by main force. It would be just as easy to pull a heavy rowboat up the gorge of Niagara, as through some of these rapids. Their best plan, by far, would have been to haul their boats in at Diamond Creek and make the descent, as they did after reaching this point. The only advantage their method gave them was a knowledge of what they would meet with on the downstream run. Lieutenant Wheeler professed to disbelieve that Major Powell had descended below Diamond Creek, and called his voyage the completion of the exploration of the Colorado River. In a four days' run they succeeded in covering the same distance that had taken four weeks of endless toil, to bring their boats up to this point.]

[Footnote 7: See appendix, History of Cataract Canyon.]